Japan shocks Dutch to stay alive in Toulon


Japan rebounded from a forgettable defeat to Turkey with authority as Takashi Sekizuka’s side came from behind to beat the Netherlands 3-2 at the Toulon Tournament on Friday.

Cerezo Osaka midfielder Takahiro Ogihara scored a late winner for Japan’s Olympic team, which has revived its semifinal hopes with a surprising yet equally impressive victory over the Group A favorites.

The fate of the young Blue Samurai, who also enjoyed goals from forwards Manabu Saito and Hiroshi Ibusuki, now rests in their first-round finale against Egypt on Sunday.

“We were just too poor in our first match two days ago,” Sekizuka said, referring to the 2-0 loss to Turkey. “We talked about leaving everything out on the pitch today because you don’t have too many chances to take part in a first-class international event like this.

“For starters, we had to score. Because if you don’t score, you can’t win or pick up points.”

Said Ibusuki, one of the eight changes to the first XI Sekizuka made from the Turkey game, “We didn’t have any other choice but to win the game. So from that point, I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back because we produced the result we needed.”

Sekizuka’s charges got off to a shocking start, falling behind only moments after kickoff.

In the third minute, the Dutch found the net through Ninos Gouriye who volleyed home a cross from the right by Ruben Ligeon in spectacular fashion.

But Japan wasted no time equalizing two minutes later thanks to Yokohama F. Marinos’ Saito, who dribbled through the box before netting off the palm of Marco Bizot.

The Japanese grabbed their first lead of the tournament three minutes into the second half when Netherlands-based midfielder Yoshiaki Takagi keyed the counterattack with a brilliant through-ball for new Hoffenheim signing Takashi Usami.

Usami, who did not play in the Turkey game but shone for Japan in a creative midfield role, had every opportunity to score on his own but unselfishly laid off to Sevilla Atletico striker Ibusuki who finished off the sequence.

The Dutch, however, pulled level just one minute later as Jody Lukoki crossed on the overlap, setting up Rick ten Voorde who blasted into the roof of the net.

The Netherlands came within centimeters of moving in front in the 65th minute, when Ricky van Haaren slammed the bar with a free kick from almost 40 meters out.

Yet contrary to pregame expectations, it was Japan who had the last laugh on 73 minutes, Ogihara hitting the back of the net from close range after Takagi mopped up a failed clearance by the Dutch defense.

“I’m glad I scored because I didn’t do much else during the game,” Ogihara said. “I think as a team, we need to be able to possess the ball more against the best teams in Europe like the one we faced today.”

Japan has been drawn with Spain, Morocco and Honduras in the group phase of the London Olympics this summer.